KILMARNOCK 1 CELTIC 1
CELTIC dropped two points at Rugby Park this afternoon in a frustrating encounter against opponents who suffocated the champions.
There was no room for Odsonne Edouard and Co to work their magic as they were forced to take long-distance shots in their effort to get a reward for their possession.
Alas, it was not to be against Killie who battled and fought furiously all the way through to the final whistle.
The Hoops deservedly took the lead in the 11th minute and it was justice being seen to be done following a cynical foul by Gary Dicker on Odsonne Edouard that brought a yellow card from referee Alan Muir.
The French ace had turned superbly away from Kirk Broadfoot as he zeroes in goal before being sent toppling to the surface by a deliberate trip from the Killie defender.
Ryan Christie sized up the situation 30 yards from goal and decided to sprinkle some stardust on proceedings.
The clever Scotland international swept in a serving left-foot effort that completely bamboozled the home side’s new keeper Danny Rodgers on its way beyond his searching left hand.
However, the advantage evaporated in the 24th minute when some untidy play from Christopher Jullien invited Killie back into the game.
He looked unsure as he tried to clear up the danger presented by powerhouse frontman Nicke Kabamba who raced onto a pass from Rory McKenzie on the left.
The French defender didn’t deal with the threat with any authority and the big striker was able to turn him on the bye-line. Jullien clearly tried to haul him back and the match official was only yards from the incident and pointed immediately to the spot.
All eyes were on £4.5million Greek international Vasilis Barkas on his Celtic debut. Could he produce a save to get his Hoops career off to a flying start?
Unfortunately, the new Bhoy was left helpless as Chris Burke’s perfect penalty-kick arrowed low past him at his left-hand post.
Two minutes later, Christie tried to stage an action replay of his free-kick goal, but, on this occasion, his attempt flew harmlessly past the upright.
After the half-hour mark, Alan Power was rightly yellow-carded for a wayward challenge on Mohamed Elyounoussi that sent the Norwegian international skidding across the plastic pitch.
Edouard tired to make him pay a heavy price, but he was off target with his deadball effort from 20 yards.
Four minutes before the break, Jullien was in all sorts of bother again when he was confronted by the barging Kabamba, but he got back to block his shot and Barkas cleared up the danger.
Edouard had a shooting opportunity in the 50th minute after working a neat one-two with James Forrest, but his thunderous shot sizzled off target.
Celtic’s frustration to break down a stuffy home defence was highlighted on the hour mark when Scott Brown tried his luck from about 35 yards and his effort swept well wide.
Four minutes later, McGregor came a lot closer with a 20-yard right-foot attempt that just cleared the crossbar with Rodgers scampering across his line.
In the 66th minute, Lennon made a double substitution when he put on Hatem Abd Elhamed and Patryk Klimala for Frimpong and Elyounoussi as he freshened things up.
Olivier Ntcham followed in the 80th minute when he replaced skipper Brown and shortly afterwards Boli Bolingoli came on for Taylor.
However, Celtic had to accept a point on a day to forget.
TEAM: Barkas; Frimpong (sub: Elhamed 66), Jullien, Ajer, Taylor (sub: Bolingoli 86); Brown (sub: Ntcham 80), McGregor; Forrest, Christie, Elyounoussi (sub: Klimala 66); Edouard.